Starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent
It should be noted that Labor Day weekend is two things for movie. One, it’s a dumping ground for the major studios to get rid of product that in their eyes, doesn’t really have a place anywhere else on their schedule (or it could be a film that is only there to capture a specific market, like say tweens). Secondly, it’s also a time when some of the smaller guys (Focus or Fox Searchlight) will try and showcase some their films in an effort to draw more attention to them by basically not being the crappy studio picture’s that are out at the same time. But since the weekend is usually a slow one, the smaller niche films are usually films that while not bad, aren’t ones the studio behind it sees as an awards caliber type film. They then get put on the schedule for Labor Day weekend. It’s not a bad move really. Your movie can probably grab more dollars and it gives people a somewhat better option, albeit a forgettable one. Where is all of this leading? It leads to this Labor Day’s somewhat better but ultimately forgettable option Closed Circuit.
I will stress that Closed Circuit really isn’t a bad film. It’s another film that I can lump into the missed opportunity file (where so many films from this year sit). But as it stands right now, it’s a film that probably would’ve been better suited as a multi-arc storyline on Law and Order UK. Content to be an interesting film that just like last week’s You’re Next, offer up reveals that aren’t at all revealing and a story line that doesn’t push itself, Closed Circuit ultimately plays it too safe.
The story focuses on the trial of a suspected terrorist who orchestrates a bombing at a local London market, killing 120 people. Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is asked, after the apparent suicide of a colleague, to defend the suspect. But with British law stating that the case have a special advocate to handle material that is deemed classified for the matter of national security, the case becomes a little more complicated when the advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) had an affair with Martin ending his marriage. Since the advocate and the lawyer cannot have contact during the portion of the trial where the classified information is being presented, this sets up the where the story heads next, which if you’ve seen any TV shows or movies involving trials, you know the facts aren’t as black and white as they seem. As Martin starts to piece together the real facts of the story, he and Claudia suddenly find their lives in danger and despite best efforts discover that their every move is being watched.
And because the story is set up to show off reveals, it can be a tricky thing to make those reveals logical and genuinely surprising. Closed Circuit doesn’t have that problem; it just has the problem of making them too easy to spot. And as I mentioned last week with my review of You’re Next, when that happens, any momentum the movie has comes to a grinding halt as you the audience member is left waiting for a big moment that isn’t so big or revealing anymore. The movie, at intermittent points, gives you scenes that look like they’re coming from security cameras. It’s a nice trick, due to the idea the movie lays forth about your every move being watched. But Closed Circuit never capitalizes on this paranoia to push its story, instead opting for easy convenient plot devices to move the plot towards its final destination.
The performances and to a lesser extent the pacing are what hold this movie together and keep you engaged in what is going on. Along with Bana and Hall, the movie also features Jim Broadbent as the Attorney General, Julia Stiles as a journalist and Ciaran Hinds, whose character is given no explantion, I thought for a short was a figment of Martin Rose’s imagination. It’s a shame their characters aren’t fleshed out more to give this movie more purpose, more drive and yes, more character (especially Broadbent’s and Stiles).
If you’re looking for something to see this weekend, taking a chance on this movie won’t leave you feeling like you want your money back. But don’t expect a meaty dinner, this is strictly an appetizer.